The Surge

THE SURGE….Mickey Kaus thinks the war in Iraq has obviously turned out badly but that the surge just might work:

The correct position, by these lights, was War No, Surge Yes. It would be selfishly callous, in a stereotypically American way, for us to invade Iraq, make a mess, and then not be willing to pay any extra price to help fix the mess we’ve made.

….Yet through a conscientiously applied mixture of high-minded comity, Machiavellian calculation, stubbornness and bad expert advice, Hillary has managed to arrive at a position that’s precisely wrong on both counts: War Yes, Surge No.

This only makes sense if you conclude, after reading a single report from Mickey’s favorite Iraqi blogger, that the surge might work. But what if you read more broadly than that and conclude otherwise? Then Hillary’s opposition to the surge makes perfect sense. At the risk of sounding hopelessly naive, it’s just barely possible that her position is based on her evaluation of facts on the ground, not Machiavellian calculation, stubbornness and bad expert advice. You never know!

There’s a broader point worth making here too. A consistent mistake made by a fair number of partisans on both sides — Andrew Sullivan is the archetype here — is to make way too much out of individual day-to-day incidents. Occasionally this is legitimate (the Golden Mosque bombing, for example), but usually it’s just simpleminded emotionalism. Purple thumbs: whee, democracy is coming! Helicopter crash: boo, Iraq is a hopeless mess!

But there are always going to be bits of good news and bits of bad news out of Iraq. What matters more are the underlying dynamics, and it doesn’t look to me like a few extra brigades in Baghdad have any hope of seriously changing those. Maybe I’m wrong. But if, like me — and, as you recall, virtually the entire uniformed military before they got their marching orders — you think the surge is nothing more than a desperate PR gamble with no hope of having anything more than a very short, very localized effect, it would be the height of cynicism to support it. Maybe that’s a lesson Hillary has learned.

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